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Matt Kupec:  Does a Mid-Major NCAA Final Four Run Turn into Fundraising Success?

Matt Kupec: Does a Mid-Major NCAA Final Four Run Turn into Fundraising Success?

by Matt Kupec

March 16, 2019

It is the time of the year – March Madness – when the NCAA Men’s Tournament takes over the sports scene and dominates our time and attention with a dazzling display of collegiate basketball games with the focus on getting to the NCAA Final Four.

Last week I had the privilege of attending my first Missouri Valley Conference basketball tournament.  The MVC is one of the “mid-major” conferences, not quite considered at the level of the Power 5 Conferences (ACC, SEC, Pac-10, Big 12, and Big Ten.),  but conferences that play outstanding basketball.   Often a “cinderella” team emerges from one of the mid-major conferences and earns a trip to the Final Four.

Last year, Loyola of Chicago had the magical ride to the Final Four.  Other mid-major teams that have gone to the Final Four in the last fifteen years include Butler (2010, 2011), Virginia Commonwealth University (2011), Wichita State (2013 as a member of the Missouri Valley Conference), Memphis (2008) and George Mason (2006).

It is widely believed that NCAA Basketball Success and a trip to the Final Four leads to significant increases in enrollment, fundraising and new national branding opportunities as the national media brings unprecedented marketing and publicity opportunities for these mid-major schools.

In this blog post I have researched whether these schools did experience significant fundraising success after a Final Four run.  There are some good studies that have concluded to differing degrees what this March Madness success had done for these major schools in terms of enrollment and merchandising but I am looking solely at the fundraising performance.

In looking at the fundraising results we have not researched other factors that could influence fundraising such as the quality of the development office and the University’s investment in its development shop but we report on the fundraising numbers alone.

The chart below shows the schools and their fundraising performance as indicated by dollars raised as self-reported to Voluntary Support of Education (VSE):

Fundraising Results for Mid-Major Schools who Reached the Final Four

George Mason Memphis Butler VCU Wichita St. Loyola (Chi.)
FY2007 $21,994,485 $22,886,630 $61,116,638 $53,205,429 $23,371,727 $30,543,025
FY2008 $23,561,867 $23,734,625 $38,452,631 $99,681,492 $25,879,461 $38,124,217
FY2009 $26,483,975 $22,505,270 $34,002,770 $61,142,630 $23,324,184 $35,559,315
FY2010 $32,399,928 $21,587,907 $42,867,255 $57,229,949 $29,914,750 $86,565,654
FY2011 $44,408,292 $19,871,719 $30,550,857 $47,432,009 $17,646,067 $29,214,398
FY2012 $44,110,738 $22,457,460 $28,251,444 $104,800,565 $18,243,147 $27,458,241
FY2013 $44,691,845 $21,599,960 $39,330,317 $59,284,041 $22,621,072 $43,497,419
FY2014 $48,467,254 $30,849,513 $38,728,621 $64,527,260 $26,363,689 $38,257,722
FY2015 $53,192,328 $21,395,574 $23,173,129 $67,255,989 $23,173,129 $31,315,450
FY2016 $67,940,425 $23,958,429 $27,984,960 $69,180,321 $29,611,888
FY2017 $66,701,813 $27,079,744 $30,014,533 $57,270,100 $28,800,118
FY2018 $68,672,680 $23,478,230 $18,648,348 $71,188,588 $33,534,656


  • There is no clear evidence that a mid-major Final Four success will lead to substantial fundraising increases in the years following the magical basketball ride:
    •  George Mason has enjoyed a study increase since their Final Four run in 2006 but there was no huge bump in the immediate couple of years after their run.
    • The University of Memphis has stayed relatively flat showing just an incremental increase over 12 years since their Final Four run. Memphis even had a couple of years where giving went down compared to the base year.
    • Butler had a couple of very good fundraising years shortly after their two consecutive Final Four runs but giving has tailed off in the more recent years.
    • VCU has shown the most dramatic increases, jumping from $47M to $104M in the year following their Final Four run. But that huge increase may have been the result on one singular transformational gift that year much like they had in 2008 three years prior to getting to the Final Four.
    • Loyola’s magical run last year is too early to tell as the fiscal year 2019 results will not be done until June of this year.
    • Wichita State had a nice bump – 18% in the year immediately after their Final Four run but they have not reported their fundraising numbers in the last three years to determine if they were able to build on the momentum gained from the Final Four Success
  • Instant fundraising success and then building on that success has not been found at these mid-major schools. The ongoing fundraising success at George Mason and VCU seems to have been more the continued good work of the development office and the school’s senior leadership team.

Although the studies are inclusive about the fundraising impact of a mid-major Final Four run, one would think that the publicity, the additional and radio time for these Universities have a positive impact on their fundraising, admissions and simply increasing overall school pride.


Digital Fundraising Prospects for 2019

Digital Fundraising Prospects for 2019

Digital fundraising has become more and more important as our world has reached the depths of so much impersonal communication. This consists heavily of emails, social media ads, and websites. But in fact, many experts within the digital fundraising world are seeing that these types of digital communications work best with potential donors, especially making it easy for them to donate their funds.

One of the most significant ways to utilize digital fundraising in your efforts is by creating an effective strategy. If you are just starting to put together your fundraising strategy, there are a few things to take into consideration to ensure it runs smoothly and you can get the most bang for your buck if you invest in social ads and website designs.

The first step to creating a better digital strategy is by taking a look at the foundation of your digital presence, your website. Your website is one of the first places your potential donors will visit to see what your non-profit organization is all about. If you have a website that is very slow in loading pages, forms, or photos, you could risk losing a donor. People like the convenience of doing everything online, so this is key.

Optimizing that website so that it runs smoothly will better your chances of having people frequent your site and want to give. This is also where you will be linking all social media ads in order for people to learn more about the organization and fundraising efforts. Another aspect to take into consideration is how often you post to social media and send out information through email. While there is no set number of how often you should post, it essential to keep an eye on analytics to see if engagements go up or down the more you post. This will help to decide on the number for your designated audience.

In the frequency of your postings, remember to create quality content that your potential donors want to pay attention to. If you aren’t sending out information they care about or have any interest in, they will slowly start to ignore and altogether stop following or subscribing to social media and email lists. This has the possibility to hurt the growth of your organization and limit the number of dollars coming in for your fundraising goals.

Take into consideration these few strategies to rev up your fundraising for the coming year. These simple points could either deter or attract potential donors, getting you that much closer to reaching your digital fundraising goals.

The Business of Fundraising

Matt Kupec has enjoyed a career as one of the most prolific fundraisers in U.S. history.  In his 30+ years leading fundraising programs at places like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, HelpMeSee, Inc., and the Moffitt Cancer Center, Matt has helped these organizations raise nearly $5 billion.

About Matt Kupec

$410.02 billion was given to the 1 million+ charities that exist in the United States in 2017, crossing the $400 billion mark for the first time ever.  As these organizations compete for these critical dollars to fulfill their important missions, fundraising is getting more important and competitive than ever.  Fundraising has become a big business.

Matt Kupec has enjoyed a career as one of the most prolific fundraisers in U.S. history.  In his 30+ years leading fundraising programs at places like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Hofstra University, HelpMeSee, Inc., and the Moffitt Cancer Center, Matt has helped these organizations raise nearly $5 billion.  Very few fundraisers can claim the same success.

In his tenure, Matt has been in involved in all facets of fundraising – campaigns, annual giving, planned giving, major and principal gift giving, corporate and foundation giving, patient giving, faculty and staff giving, parents giving, community outreach programs, stewardship, gift processing, talent management, etc., and has an expertise that gives him an incredible insight into the world of philanthropy.

Matt Kupec has worked with boards, leadership teams, volunteer committees, community groups, consultants, to develop fundraising programs and strategies that produce results. As a result, he has a total grasp of the inner workings of a successful fundraising operation.

In this website, Matt will share his experience and expertise on those issues that of importance to fundraisers across this country.  Whether it’s starting up an organization and taking a best-in class development shop, this website will provide insights experienced by one of the most successful fundraisers in this country’s history.

Joining Matt Kupec to offer advice will be a series of guest “expert” columnists to offer their advice and counsel to the challenges that fundraisers face into today’s competitive environment as we explore the “business of fundraising.”